Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dreamy Creamy Chicken and Rice

The weather is slowly getting colder, but I'm not waiting for a real chill before I dive into comfort food. I have always loved a chicken and rice casserole. Here is a way to enjoy chicken and rice without gloopy cream-of-something soups and an hour or more of bake time.

The yogurt is a great alternative to the canned soup, adding a creamy texture to the sauce without the extra calories. The sauce is just thin enough for the rice to soak up.

Cook rice in a rice cooker or on the stovetop according to directions. 

Heat oil in a saute pan and add onions with a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions begin to sweat, just a few minutes. Add the chicken and cook until browned. 
Whisk together the chicken stock and yogurt.

Roughly chop the spinach.

Whisk the spinach, garlic, and basil into yogurt mixture.

When the chicken has browned, remove from pan and set aside. Turn heat down to medium-low and add yogurt mixture to pan. 

Shred or slice the chicken and add back to pan. Cook until just heated through and the spinach begins to wilt. 

Serve over rice and enjoy.

Dreamy Creamy Chicken and Rice
Serves 2

2/3 cup brown rice
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion
salt and pepper
2 chicken breasts or thighs
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2/3 cup low fat plain or Greek yogurt
2 cups fresh spinach
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil

Cook rice in a rice cooker or on the stovetop according to directions. 

Heat oil over medium in a saute pan and add onions with a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions begin to sweat, just a few minutes. Add the chicken and cook until browned. 

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the chicken stock and yogurt until smooth. 
Roughly chop the spinach. Whisk the spinach, garlic, and basil into yogurt mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. 

When the chicken has browned, remove from pan and set aside. Turn heat down to medium-low and add yogurt mixture to pan. 

Shred or slice the chicken and add back to pan. Cook until just heated through and the spinach begins to wilt. Keep the heat low to keep the yogurt from curdling. 

Serve over rice and enjoy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. One could never go wrong counting their blessings, enjoying friends and family, and sharing a great meal. I have many memories furiously whisking gravy with my Granny and Dad carving the turkey.

Here are a few easy recipes that I hope will help you enjoy a wonderful holiday meal.

Roasted Turkey
Choose a turkey large enough to feed your guests and to provide the leftovers you would like. We are always big on leftovers and frequently have an 18+ pound bird. Butterball has a great website with recommendations and guides for all things turkey.

Sometimes a simple turkey is all you need.

1 turkey
1-2 sticks butter, softened

Remove the turkey from the packaging and pull out the neck and giblets from the cavity. Rinse the turkey inside and out and pat dry. Tuck the wings back to hold the neck skin in place and place turkey onto a roasting rack.

Rub the turkey with the butter until well coated. A good butter massage does everyone some good. This does not have to be pretty, the butter will just melt into deliciousness. Cover the turkey with two layers of foil and roast at 325 degrees. When the turkey is about 30 minutes from away from being fully cooked, remove the foil to brown.

Check the turkey for doneness, 180 degrees deep in the thigh. Remove the turkey from the pan and move to a platter and cover with foil again to rest before carving.

Pan Gravy
This is my favorite part. My Granny would use sake instead of white wine for deglazing the pan. I love the twist, the great flavor, and the memories. This will make quite a bit of gravy, plenty for leftovers.

Whisking the gravy can take a bit of work, so grab your sister (my favorite!), brother, or cousin to help.

1 bottle sake
1/2 cup flour
4 cups chicken stock

Pour the drippings from the roasting pan into a fat separator and set aside. Place the roasting pan over two burners on the stove top and turn heat to medium. When the pan is hot, add about a third of the sake and use a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add another third of the sake, reserved juices from the fat separator, and 1/4 cup of the flour. Whisk constantly, working out the lumps of flour. Repeat with the rest of the sake and four.

Continue to whisk the gravy, adding the stock about 1 cup at a time as the gravy reduces. When the last of the stock has been added, cook until the desired consistency. Turn off heat and pour into a gravy boat or two and serve hot.

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions
As much as I love green bean casserole, sometimes a change is great. Here is a simple way to great flavor to green beans.

Caramelizing the onions can take a little bit of time, but you can step into the living room and sing along to White Christmas with your mom while the onions do the work in between adding stock. This recipe should serve at least ten and could easily be divided.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 small yellow onions
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
4 pounds green beans, fresh or defrosted

Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat and slice the onions. 
Add the onions to the dutch oven with a few pinches of salt. 
Allow the onions to cook down, using the stock to deglaze the pan. Repeat until you have used the stock or your patience. The longer they go, the better they taste. 
Toss onions with the green beans and add freshly ground pepper. We love pepper, so I used at least 2 teaspoons. 

Spread out in a greased 9 x 13 in pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes covered in foil and then 30 minutes uncovered. The beans can go in the oven when you remove the foil from the turkey so that they will be done just before the gravy. 

Dutch Apple Pie
My second favorite. I always loved having this for breakfast the next day with mom. 

For the filling:
2 pounds apples, using two different kinds of apples adds a more complex flavor, our favorites are Galas and Granny Smiths
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
juice of 1/2 lemon

For the crumb topping:
1 cup whole wheat flour, white flour, or mixture
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup butter, softened

Mom always makes the best pie crusts!
Slice and core the apples and arrange them in an unbaked crust. Heat the sugar, corn starch, salt, water and butter in a sauce pan over medium. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat and add vanilla and lemon juice. Pour over apples.
Combine flour, oatmeal, pecans, almonds, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon, and stir to combine. 
Cut in butter until crumbly. Pack topping onto apples. 
Cover pie with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, removing foil for the last 20 minutes. 
You might have to set a piece aside if you want any for breakfast.

Have a great Thanksgiving making memories!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Spicy Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Finally, I bought some sriracha.
After having sriracha at our favorite Japanese restaurant, we had to have some. Sriracha has a great clean heat, all with a short list of pronounceable ingredients and a natural red color.

We've had it in a pot pie for a little extra zing. I've made a quick stir fry with chicken and green beans, spicy enough to warrant milk with dinner. Chili is next on my list.

While I purchased the sriracha on purpose, the brussel sprouts were a whim. Everything comes together here with a simple roasted dinner. If you don't have or don't care for the sprouts, use your favorite vegetables. More peppers, green beans, broccoli, anything you'd like.

Spicy Roasted Chicken and Vegetables:
Serves 2

1 cup brown rice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cilantro
2 teaspoons sriracha, double it for more heat

2 pieces chicken breast or thighs
2 small or 1 medium yellow onion
2 medium bell peppers or 3 handfuls baby bell peppers
1/2 pound brussel sprouts

Cook rice according to directions. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk the olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, cilantro and sriracha. Marinate the chicken in half of the sauce while you cut up the vegetables.
Cut the onions and peppers into larger bite-sized pieces
Wash, trim, and halve the brussel sprouts.

Toss vegetables with remaining sauce. Spread vegetables and chicken out on a roasting pan or stoneware. Roast in the oven 25-30 minutes until the chicken is done and the vegetables have browned nicely. 
Cut up the chicken if you'd like. Serve chicken and vegetables over rice.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

I am sure my coworkers don't mind being guinea pigs. They just might enjoy it! With most of the office out today, I thought these would be a great treat.

Try these quick blueberry muffins for breakfast this weekend!

Blueberry Muffins
Makes 1 dozen

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup applesauce
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin with spray oil or paper cups.
Whisk together the flour, corn meal, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and set aside
Cream the butter and sugar
Add an egg
And the applesauce
Mix in half of the dry ingredients, then the milk, and then the rest of the dry ingredients
Fold in the blueberries
Divide the batter into the prepared muffin tin
Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean
These muffins don't have much butter or sugar and the applesauce keeps them tender and moist. Enjoy this filling breakfast with a glass of cold milk.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grilled Cream Cheese Sandwiches

As much as I love grilled cheese, I went looking for a little different take this week. Cheese is always good and I am crazy about cream cheese. These are savory, creamy sandwiches perfect with soup with this cooler weather.

Grilled Cream Cheese
Makes 6 Sandwiches

1 8 oz package cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper
2 handfuls fresh spinach
12 slices lunchmeat of your choice
12 pieces of whole wheat bread

In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, spinach and spices until smooth.
Lightly butter one side of a piece of bread and place in a hot skillet. Spread 1/6th of the cheese spread on the bread.
Top with two slices of lunch meat and another slice of bread. Toast the sandwich on both sides and repeat with the remaining ingredients. 
Enjoy your Grilled Cream Cheese with a toasty warm bowl of tomato soup.

Monday, November 7, 2011

More Pumpkin!

I think I love pumpkin more everyday. Just one more recipe with pumpkin before its time to start making pies.

Is it time to start making pies yet?

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta & Shrimp
With Sauteed Peas
Serves 4

4 cups whole wheat pasta
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 pound shrimp, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 cups peas, fresh or frozen
1 small yellow onion, diced

salt and pepper

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to directions. Meanwhile, defrost shrimp if frozen in cool water.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion with a pinch of salt and saute until softened and translucent, 4-5 minutes. Turn heat down to low and add peas, cooking until peas are heated through, at least 4 minutes. Season generously with pepper.

In another skillet, heat remaining teaspoon oil over medium heat. Add shrimp, salt and pepper, and cook until the shrimp are just pink, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

When the pasta is al dente, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain. Add pumpkin, milk, and parmesan to pot and heat over medium until the cheese has begun to melt. Stir pasta and shrimp into pumpkin mixture, adding reserved pasta water to reach desired consistency. 
Serve pasta with peas and enjoy!

So what about some knitting?

There are two little ones on the way that I had the privilege to knit for this last week. 
Baby V will be warm and well-dressed in this adorable Shrug Bug. I have been waiting to use this pattern for a long time and I absolutely loved it! A fast, easy pattern in chunky yarn makes for instant results. 

Baby R will also be warm and toasty in Baby Sophisticate, another pattern I have been waiting to work on for a little one. Another quick knit! Can't wait to see these little ones all dressed up!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shrimp Bisque

The colder weather today had me searching for something delicious and warm. Shrimp Bisque sounded like a perfect solution.

Shrimp Bisque:
Serves 2 + leftovers

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups fish or vegetable stock
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1/2 pound shrimp
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium stock pot, melt the butter and whisk in the flour to make a roux
Cook over low heat until brown and fragrant, at least 5 minutes
Whisk in 1 cup of the stock and turn the heat down very low 
In another pan, saute the onions and carrots in spray oil with a pinch of salt over medium heat
Roughly chop the shrimp
Add the shrimp to the pan and cook until they just begin to turn pink
Stir in the pumpkin and crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer

Add the shrimp mixture into the pot with the roux, stirring in the remaining 1/2 cup of stock, oregano and freshly ground pepper.
Over medium heat, return soup to a simmer then turn off the heat. 

If you would like your bisque to be a little more smooth or creamy, there are always options. For smooth bisque, simply puree the vegetables before adding to the roux and chopping the shrimp into smaller pieces. For creamy bisque, stir in a touch of sour cream or plain yogurt after turning off the heat. 

Serve soup with crackers and enjoy!

Speaking of crackers, I couldn't resist making these delicious & easy snack crackers. These crackers are another memory. They best warm and fresh out of the oven. I remember noshing on them before big meals and licking my fingers of all the garlicky goodness.
You just need 1/4 cup vegetable oil, a bag or box of oyster crackers and a salad dressing mix. You can use Italian for a little sweeter of a snack, Ranch for a savory snack, or your favorite mix.
In a medium bowl, toss the crackers with the oil to coat. Stir in the dressing mix and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Toss the crackers at least once to prevent them from burning.
Store them in an air tight container for up to a week. They'll be gone soon!